Tag Archives: The Chrysanthemum Festival

Autumn III: 18

Left (Win).


kumo no ue ni
machikoshi kyō no
shiragiku wa
hito no kotoba no
hana ni zo arikeru
Above the clouds
Long have we waited for this day, when
The white chrysanthemums
Are the words in which folk
Blossom forth!

A Servant Girl.




kyō to ieba
yae saku kiku o
kokonoe ni
kasaneshi ato mo
On this day
Upon the eight-fold blooming chrysanthemums,
A nine-fold layer

Was laid – a trace of it



The Right have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem. The Left state that the Right’s ‘Upon the eight-fold blooming chrysanthemums, a nine-fold layer’ (yae saku kiku o kokonoe ni) is lifted wholesale from an earlier famous poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: Both Left and Right charmingly express the conception [kokoro wa okashikuhaberu] of the Chrysanthemum Festival, but the Left’s ‘Are the words in which folk blossom forth!’ (hito no kotoba no hana ni zo arikeru) has a slightly better air about it at present.

Autumn III: 17



haru aki ni
tomeru yado ni wa
shiragiku o
kasumi no iro ni
ukabete zo miru
Long life’s
Blessings to this house:
White chrysanthemums
In pale blue haze
Adrift, I see…

Lord Suetsune.




kimi o omou
iwai ni kiku o
aki mo kagiranu
hana to koso mire
Wishing for my Lord’s
Long life, chrysanthemums
I have first plucked;
Not of autumn alone
Do these flowers seem!



The Right have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem. The Left say that they do not feel the Right’s poem quite expresses all that it attempts to do.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s ‘Long life’s blessings to this house’ (haru aki ni tomeru yado ni wa) must be a reference to the Hall of Longevity. What does ‘in pale blue haze adrift’ (kasumi no iro ni ukabu) mean, though? Even though sake is referred to as ‘flowing haze’, to simply say ‘in pale blue haze’ suggests that one is really referring to haze, itself. Left and Right have strengths and weaknesses and there is no clear difference between them.

Autumn III: 16



nao nagatsuki to
chigiri kana
kyō tsumu kiku no
sue no shiratsuyu
To have yet more long life,
Is the vow, with
White dewdrops from the tips
Of today’s plucked chrysanthemums…

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Win).


kimi ga hen
yo o nagatsuki no
kazashi tote
kyō orietaru
shiragiku no hana
That my Lord will pass through
Ages more, for the Longest Month
Our garland will be
Picked on this very day,
White chrysanthemum blooms!

Lord Takanobu.


Neither team can find any fault with the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s poem is excellent in both diction and overall configuration [sugata kotoba yū narubeshi]. Although the Right’s fine phrase [shūku] ‘picked on this very day’ (kyō orietaru) is somewhat archaic [koto furite] and I am unable to appreciate it, the Left’s poem, however, sounds as if it were a poem praying for one’s own long life. The Right, though, celebrates for one’s Lord, and so must win.

Autumn III: 15



kyō to ieba
yagate magaki no
shiragiku zo
tazuneshi hito no
sode to miekeru
On this day
At last, along my lattice fence
White chrysanthemums:
Seeming like the sleeves of
One who came to call…

Lord Kanemune.




sakazuki ni
ukaberu kyō no
kage yori ya
shiragiku no hana
In my wine cup
Floating on this day:
Does the moonlight
Bring on changing hues
For white chrysanthemum blooms?



The Right say that having the phrase ‘at last, along my lattice fence’ (yagate magaki no) continuing one from the other is ‘unsatisfactory’ [kokoroyukazu]. The Left say that the Right’s phrasing sounds as if the change in colour is brought about by the blossom floating in the wine cup, rather than the moonlight, and query if this is appropriate.

Shunzei’s judgement: Is the Left’s ‘at last, along my lattice fence’ that poor [ashiku ya wa]? Furthermore, the Right’s poem simply means ‘when floating in the wine cup’ the colours ‘change’. Neither poem has any conspicuous faults [tomo ni toganaku kikoyu]. The round should tie.

Autumn III: 14

Left (Win).


kimi ga hen
yo o kokonoka no
kyō koto ni
kiku o tsumite zo
toshi o tsumubeki
That you, my Lord, will pass through
The world – on the Ninth –
Today, above all
We pick chrysanthemums that
Your years may pile upon each other.

Lord Ari’ie.




kimi ga yo wa
kyō tsumu kiku ni
oku tsuyu no
tsumorite fuchi to
yo made ni
My Lord, your life:
Today, I pluck chrysanthemums
Dropped with dew;
Mount up and a deep, deep pool
Become – until then let life last!

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem. The Left say that the Right’s overly resembles Lord Toshiyori’s ‘The upper pine branches/Dropped with dew’.

Shunzei’s judgement: In addition to being old-fashioned [furuki], the Right’s poem has ‘life’ (yo) in both its initial and final sections. The Left must win.

Autumn III: 13



nasake nomi ka wa
sogagiku no
iro motehayasu
shirotae no sode
To tell between them
Does not need soft thoughts alone ?
Yellow chrysanthemumsf
Hues combined with
Sleeves of white mulberry cloth.





nagatsuki no
kyō kokonoka
to ii kao ni
oriete miyuru
shiragiku no hana
‘Of the Longest Month
Today is the Ninth day,’
So seem to say,
Plucked and in my sight,
These white chrysanthemums.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right say that the meaning of sogagiku is unclear. The Left respond, ‘They are yellow chrysanthemums. Emperor Ninmyō [Soga] was known to be fond of the colour yellow and so this is a term for yellow chrysanthemums.’ The Right then continue, ‘The Man’yōshū uses the term sogai (“rear”), in poems with the conception of “pursuing after” [oisugai no kokoro nari]. So are these not, therefore, chrysanthemums which are later in blooming on riverbanks, perhaps?’

The Left content themselves with saying that the Right’s poem shows no particular brilliance of construction, nor significant faults.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s ‘Does not need soft thoughts alone’ (nasake nomi ka wa) is by no means bad in the context of this poem [kono uta ni torite wa ashikarazarubeshi]. The explanation about yellow chrysanthemums is, indeed, one that has had some circulation recently. Lord Toshiyori apparently declared sogagiku to be ‘a single stem of yellow chrysanthemums’. The Right’s other query on the relationship with the Man’yō term sogai, does not seem to be without merit [muri ni arazaru]. It has been said that the Right’s poem lacks faults, but I cannot appreciate ‘so seem to say’ (ii kao ni) as proper diction [shokisebekarazaru kono kotoba haberubeki]. In the absence of definite proof from the reign of Emperor Ninmyō about the sense of sogagiku, I make this round a tie.